Google doesn’t replace marketing firms because they don’t do creative

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

I’ve just finished re-reading Jeff Jarvis’ book “What would Google do?” again. Though I agree with many of his ideas such as your real value and how you make money online can be two different things and don’t try to control the flow of information, but join it, I do have one core idea that I disagree with, his criticism and central idea of the advertising industry. He is confusing media buying with creative development. He believes that there is no need for advertising agencies, because Google is all a small business needs to succeed. And, of course, they need to give what they do away for free and try to make money through a “side door”. If Google is all a small business needs, why are millions of small businesses still looking on how to grow and survive, let alone succeed? Shouldn’t we be awash with all of these booming small businesses that are dominating the world? This is not a jab at small business, but an observation on how silly Jeff Jarvis is on preaching that all you need is Google. (Though if I had Jeff on my payroll, I would want him to do the same thing, preach my gospel.)

What Jeff Jarvis fails to explain, Google is a media buying company at it’s core. They don’t create or produce any marketing or advertising. They are a platform. In Ken Auletta’s book “Googled”, Eric Schmidt readily admitted that Google can’t do what advertising and marketing agencies do: that is to concept, create, and produce world-class marketing and advertising. Google is great at distributing the ads, but not creating them. This is why they fired their army of over 1,000 advertising account executives. They realized that creative and production was the chink in the armor.

The point is that Google should be part of your marketing strategy, but not your only marketing strategy. So what if people find you, but your web site sucks, your messaging is off target, and you look and feel like everyone else, which is, nothing special? Just because they come, doesn’t mean they’ll buy. To me advertising is about blending creativity with strategy. In Richard Florida’s book, “Rise of the creative class”, one of the main points is creativity has become the driving force of economic growth (not technology for technology sake). Creativity drives America economically in today’s world and in the future. Unlike algorithms, brilliance and creativity isn’t about formulas, it’s about being human and understanding human emotion. This is also the essence to brand.

It is this creativity that marketing and advertising agencies excel at. Google does not. This is not to say that Google doesn’t play an important part of the equation, it’s just not the holy grail of marketing like Jeff Jarvis would like you to believe. Again, if this was true, why are so many small businesses struggling just to survive and desperately trying to grow? I’m sure if they gave everything away, as Jeff suggests, they would have plenty of customers, but for most, that’s economically unrealistic. (This makes me wonder why I had to pay $24.99 to Barnes & Noble for his book instead of getting it for free?) Yes, you can say they need to get creative about how they make money and I would agree, but the answer isn’t only Google.

So, if you take Jeff Jarvis’ advice and fire your advertising agency, good luck. While you’re at it, you might as well fire your accountant and lawyer because you should be able to do those functions too. Unfortunately, I’ve had many small business owners contact me in the last 6 months to help them figure out why they are either stagnant or losing business. Many of them had taken Jeff’s advice and decided to do marketing via “the wisdom of crowds” and their own sense of what they believe marketing should be and wonder why they haven’t reached their goals over the past year or even the past 5 years. It’s sad to see businesses that are the same size as they were 10 years ago. This means they are slowly falling behind as the saying goes, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.” You can bet your competitors aren’t standing still.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.


  1. Google believes in TV advertising « Bebranded's Blog - July 28, 2010

    […] have combined the AdWords concept with media buying on TV. Smart idea. As I had said in an earlier blog, Google is a media platform, not an advertising agency. (Google’s solution is to offer […]

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